Thistle Gate opens tasting room

“This is a big jump for us,” George said.


This comes after a banner inaugural year for Thistle Gate, located just southwest of the Hardware River on Rt. 6.

In 2011, the Cushnies earned two medals in the Governor’s Cup: a silver for their Chardonnay and a bronze for their St. George Chambourcin.

They’ve planted another 800 vines and plan to plant another three acres in the coming years.

And while last year they were happy to farm out much of the winemaking, George and his daughter Christy Cushnie decided they wanted more control over the process and will do it themselves this year.

“We are learning winemaking,” George said. “We will have the grapes de-stemmed, crushed and pressed off site.”

But the other part of the process, adding the yeast and keeping a watchful eye on the fermenting process will be done in the new building.

Besides the cost of the two-story, 18,000 square-foot building, they bought winemaking equipment: tanks, new barrels, racks, pumps and lab analysis equipment.

In keeping with the architecture and color scheme of the Cushnie home and other outbuildings on Thistle Gate, the tasting room is painted white with a teal colored metal roof.

It is two stories tall. The top floor is office space. The first level houses the tasting and winemaking rooms, separated by a sliding, insulated barn door with a window.

Tasters can look through the window to see the barrels of wine fermenting.

A large porch surrounds two sides of the building and looks over the vineyards.

In keeping with the Cushnies desire to use local craftsmen, they bought wood, cut and kiln dried, from Tanya Cornwell’s Scottsville farm, George said.

“She let Leslie hand pick it from a large inventory,” he said. “The tasting bar and shelve wood is one-inch thick walnut and counter tops are two-inch thick oak.”

Local carpenter/artisan Tony Fox built the tasting room from plans Leslie and her “across the river” neighbor Mike Williams designed, George said. Mike and his wife Kelly are longtime horse people. He was a full-time builder in the Waynesboro/Staunton area before settling in to Fluvanna, George said. The Williams own Painted Horse Ranch just northeast of the Cushnies along the Hardware River.

“Mike and Leslie sat around the kitchen table for several evenings designing the new winery,” George said. “They also worked together throughout construction on all the details. After construction of the building was finished, Mike helped me with landscaping and other tasks. It would be hard to find a better neighbor.”

Christy said they were going for a certain look.

“The tasting room was supposed to look like a stable but it got fancier,” she said. “Now it is supposed to look like an English tack room.”

Gravel has been spread for the 10-car parking lot. There is plenty of room on the grass for overflow parking.

Flower beds have been planted around the building. Leslie Cushnie is a Master Gardener and belongs to a garden club in Scottsville.

Thistle Gate is expanding in other ways. They now supply wine to the Tavern on the James restaurant in Scottsville. There you can get Thistle Gate’s Chardonnay, Batteau Red and Cab Franc.

Thistle Gate will take part in the Fluvanna Chamber of Commerce Wine Festival Sept. 29 and the Louisa Wine Festival Oct. 13.

The Cushnies hope Thistle Gate becomes a destination spot for wine lovers. They are listed on the Virginia Wine Council maps.

“It’s a matter of getting ourselves known and getting them thinking about us when they do their tours,” George said.
People already seek them out.

The Cushnies have contacted wine lovers in Lake Monticello. George said he hopes to host club events at Thistle Gate during days it is closed to the public.

“Fluvanna County is a large part of our market.”

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